I guess I should start this whole blogging/musing endeavour with a bit of an introduction; to do otherwise would be rather impolite of me.
Who is the Galloping Academic? My name is Carolyn Willekes, and I completed a Ph.D in Greek and Roman Studies at the University of Calgary in 2013. My graduate research focused entirely on the history of the horse in antiquity- specifically the Mediterranean, Near East and Central Asia. It is a topic that is dear to my heart, as I have been certifiably horse mad since I was a wee child (the technical term is 'hippomania' if you want to sound fancy), and I have ridden for most of my life. I had no intentions of studying horses, heck, I didn't even realize it was an option and so I pretty much blundered into the subject when my MA supervisor rejected my original thesis idea, which was something far more traditional and mundane. I believe it went something like 'I dislike that topic very much so don't write about it. Hey, you like horses, why don't you write about cavalry instead?' Despite my spluttering protests that I knew nothing about warfare, he persuaded me to give it a go and that was that. I became fascinated not with ancient warfare, but with the actual concept of using a horse in war. Anyone who has every spent even a small amount of time working with horses knows how foolhardy an idea this seems: horses are afraid of anything and everything- from legitimate predatory things to the absolutely absurd (Pierre, I am looking at you here). So why on earth did we think it was a good idea to take them to war? Apparently the idea wasn't as absurd as it seems as we relied on warhorses for thousands of years. Thus, I became fascinated why the practicalities of raising and training the warhorse, a fascination that turned into my MA thesis on the cavalry of Alexander the Great. From there it progressed further to my doctoral dissertation which focused on identifying the horse types of the ancient world and how form dictated military function: essentially trying to figure out why certain styles of cavalry developed in different regions. That dissertation has now been turned into a book 'The Horse in the Ancient World: From Bucephalus to the Hippodrome' (I.B. Tauris, 2016) with an added bonus chapter on sports!
My academic career has been far from typical and I have pretty much half bumbled and half blazed my way forwards with an admittedly unorthodox approach to research by combining the traditional methods of reading Greek and Latin texts with experimental archaeology and ethnoarchaeological studies. This means I have trained warhorses, learned how to shoot traditional horse bows, wield swords and all sorts of other cavalry-related things. I've also ridden hundreds of miles across parts of Greece, Mongolia and Turkey on native horses to study the breeds as well as the local horse cultures (Bulgaria is next up in May), while at the same time continuing to ride hunters and jumpers at home in Calgary. Even in this I had to be just that little bit different, as for years I had the privilege and pleasure of riding Akhal Teke horses owned and bred by my friend at Bold Vantage Farm (they are seriously cool horses...more to come on that as well). Thankfully, my wonderful and long-suffering trainer, Cody Peach at Sandscape Ridge takes it all in stride.
When not in 'Freelance Academic' mode (I hate the term 'Independent Scholar') I can be found at the Tack Collector, a fantastic consignment tack shop in Calgary working for my good friend, Kathleen Iles, who is immensely understanding of my academic-related obligations (Thank you!)
Right, so that is pretty much who I am. What is this website about? Well, essentially it will be posts about my research shenanigans (past and present), as well as musings on things related to horses, other animals, history, archaeology, and travel.